No Sleep ‘Til Fusion

The Mark Suppes fusor story is going viral now.  There is an account at Gizmodo, which offers a much better overview than the first BBC piece, and stresses the pivotal issue that governs this and ALL fusion research:  

The problem with fusion has always been that we don't know how to get more energy out of it than we put into it. We know the energy is there. We know effective fusion is likely to take a lot of energy to jumpstart, but we don't know how (or if) we can ever get fusion going well enough to capture as much energy out as we put into it—the elusive break even point

This article makes another valid point that is often overlooked amid all the "free energy" excitement over a concept that is still anything but: 

As evening falls, Suppes wonders aloud if cheap fusion energy is even a good idea. "Would we just use up the planet quicker?" he asks, then shrugs and moves on. It's a good question. In every age access to easier energy has gone along with environmental destruction. From Native Americans fire clearing forests and the extinction of Australian megafauna to the Industrial Revolution fouling up everything else, we've always used energy for beating the hell out of the planet. Today tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico. Might as well try for the devil we don't know.

It goes more or less without saying that — in the paradigm of the past one or two millennia — the production and consumption of energy is a destructive process, as the situation in the Gulf painfully demonstrates.  But, if the process itself is clean, does that just unleash us for ever greater planetary destruction?

Philo T. Farnsworth invented a nuclear fusion process in part because he was looking for a means of propulsion in space other than liquid and solid fuel rockets.  If his vision is realized, we may yet need it for that. 


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